12 November 2009

Hogwarts Apres le Deluge: Chapter 1

Reality and Remembrance

Professor Apres le Deluge leaned back in a battered armchair and deliberately lifted his tired legs onto the scratched and gouged surface of his desk. His feet thudded solidly onto the paper strewn surface. He frowned as he considered how many actions that once required only desire now demanded considerable planning and effort. Once his legs would effortlessly rise and glide soundlessly to rest on a tidier and much more presentable desk. Now the silence was broken by short grunts and his legs refused to elevate properly without discrete tugs on his pant legs. So much had changed.

From the hallway behind him, he could hear the bellowing of the students as they more or less went about the business of changing classes. The ten minute revenge dramas, mating rituals, clown acts, random acts of violence, and efforts at invisibility filled the hallway outside his office every hour. “The Running of Hormones” as it was known by the staff of The New Hogwarts. The noise was louder now, Deluge thought, the students less manageable that when he’d started, than before the war. The tone was different as well. He could hear the anger, the rage barely contained, often spilling over into fights, magical, and increasingly physical. His desk once faced the hallway, his office door standing open, but now the door was closed and locked and his desk was turned to face a window. He stayed in his seat when he heard the distinctive rise in volume and the pounding of running feet that signaled yet another fight. Too many teachers he had known had been hurt or worse, disciplined after trying to stop a fight. He’d had enough. Let them fight. It’s not worth the grief from the parents and the Headmistress.

Deluge had arranged his desk so that by pivoting his head slightly his field of vision contained both the window and a large painting of the very view that lay sprawled out beneath him. Deluge often thought that the artist must have stood exactly were he, Deluge, now sat and looked out this window when he painted the landscape. If so, he’d be stunned to see what sixty years had done to the place.

“Sixty years,” Deluge thought. “Sixty years since ‘The Last Good War.’” Hogwarts had sent its best and brightest into battle. The hallways are lined with portraits of those destroyed in the Great Cause. Looking back, he thought that so many were impossibly young, his classmates who, like him, had fought a desperate guerilla war against the Death Eaters’ Fourth Column that had overrun Hogwarts. Once it filled him with rage to find a vandalized portrait or some idiotic student cluelessly sporting a fashionable Death Eaters’ T-shirt or tattoo. But these days he didn’t have the stomach for rage. Or for late-night pizza, for that matter. He’d moved the portraits of his special friends into his chambers and failed everyone who brought the Death Head into his classes. It turned out he didn’t have to work too hard to do so.

Settling back in his chair, Deluge considered that on days like this, when the pointlessness of standing before the students and looking into those angry, scared, and ignorant faces, who seemed impervious to his efforts to teach them the value of Ancient Runes, Deluge was tempted to stay locked in his office and let the chaos sweep by without him. He sighed and thanked the governments dedication to destroying education, because thanks to their “reforms,” or “deforms” as the staff called them, he had been able to purchase his office and the adjoining rooms. The Education MInistry had discarded tenure, but in the “Ownership Society” property rights were sacrosanct.

After ten minutes or so, the roar from the hallways died down. He leaned back in his chair so he would not see the students slipping out the doors and across the grounds. He slowly turned from the painting to the window and back, trying to match landmarks. It was amazingly difficult. “We did win,” he mumbled. “Didn’t we?” The painting showed steep hills dotted with picturesque cottages organically situated in verdant, yes, verdant is only word for that lush green, verdant fields. The cerulean sky holds several fleecy clouds that wouldn’t ever rain. A narrow gauge railway clung precariously to the banks of gently winding river. Outside the window the scene was completely altered. The war had started the process, but Deluge thought that the victors had done the most damage.

Deluge had spent his childhood in one of the quirky cottages, a grant from the local Lord to the young widow. His childhood was all he’d spent as his family scrapped by on beets and cabbage from his mother’s meager garden and the occasional small animal he and his sister could bring down with their rocks and slings. He doubted he saw his mother with more than two dollars at any time.

Deluge had once worked out the location of the old cottage and had marked an “X” on the office window to mark the spot. When he placed his chair on the spot marked on the floor, his eyes would fix on the “X” and he would stare past the mark, far below and up the opposite hillside a ways, to were the cottage once stood. He had protected the cottage during the war. He and his guerilla band had used it as meeting place. But Voldemort was nothing compared to the unstoppable force of urban sprawl, and the cottage and green fields lay crushed under the conquering mass of anonymous suburbs.

The beautiful river in which he had fished and on which he’d rafted and explored was also changed forever. The gentle, winding path it cut through the valley was torn apart and contorted. Once they’d captured Hogwarts, the Death Eaters changed the course of the river, looping it around the school like a garrote, choking off aid and supplies from the rebels' muggle allies. After the war, the victors were so tired and so disgusted by magic that they simply left the river alone. In a decade or so, the river had shaped the valley to its new path and that was that.

The old narrow gauge steam railway was another victim of the war, of victory, of time. The train whistle was the timekeeper of Deluge’s youth, its call reaching him wherever his wanderings took him. The schedule was ingrained in his mind and to this day he cannot hear a train whistle without feeling that is time to head for dinner or to return to school for lights out. But the train is gone, its tracks destroyed in the long battle for Hogwarts. He himself had executed numerous attacks on them. Now an eight-lane Highway, the A 9 1/2, rolls out of the city, through the cancerous suburbs, and past Hogwarts, mile after mile of oil and blood soaked cracked concrete, jammed continuously with traffic spewing noxious fumes that stain the once clear sky and generating a constant din that ceaselessly vibrates the battle-damaged stones of the remaining great towers of Old Hogwarts, loosening them and periodically sending one or more crashing into the river far below. Deluge much preferred the train.

“It’s not just me who’s worn out,” thought Deluge. “Sixty years of war and recovery has been hard on the land, too. And the survivors, the big names, have all died or moved on. Only the small fry have stayed. We've nowhere to go.” And so he sat, easing into immobility, his chair long broken in to fit his long broken body, molding itself effortlessly around him, leaving with a peaceful sense of disconnected weightlessness. Time passed, the light faded, and Deluge was lost in his memories and the deepening shadows of his office.